Having a hard drive crash or some other form of memory (such as a flash drive or CD) stop working can be a source of significant stress and frustration. A common reaction is to absorb the worst: “oh no! All my years of data and work is gone! I'm ruined!” It can be even worse if it is a business application and the data that was lost contains client information or proprietary software, for example.
So what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?
The first thing you should do is relax . A failed hard drive is not the end of the world and, in many cases, the data can still be recovered.
If your computer still boots up, there is data recovery software you can get that may be able to scan the affected drive and recover the data from it which can then be copied to another drive and you will be on your way.
If the computer does not boot up, it may not even be the drive at all that is the problem. For example, if your motherboard fails your computer will not start, and this may cause people to think their hard drive has gone bad. But in this case, since the hard drive is still fine, it just has to be connected to another computer and the data can be accessed.
If there is actual physical data to the drive the data can still be recovered sometimes. This includes physical damage to hard drives as well as to more portable storage mediums including CDs and flash drives. In these cases there are often online services or companies you can contact who specialize in this area and who may have special software or tools that can use to recover your data. Be aware however that some of the techniques they use require opening up the hard drive and may void your drive's warranty, although for the chance of recovering your data, you may not care about the warranty.
There are also some warnings you should pay attention to: if your hard drive starts making clicking noises (sometimes referred to as the “click of death”), it is likely due to the beginning of a mechanical failure and you may want to begin taking the necessary precautions, such as backing up the hard drive so that if it does end up failing, you will still have a copy of the data you can use.